May 23, 2011

2011 Maker Faire fun

This was our second year that we were able to get to the Bay Area Maker Faire. I wrote a bit about our experiences at the 2010 Maker Faire here and mentioned one of the mini maker faire's we got to go to back in 2009 here too.

We were looking forward to this year a great deal, knowing from last year the kind of awesomeness that was awaiting us. We were also a little concerned that we might not actually make it this year, because I am really close to the end of this pregnancy and I'm carrying around more amniotic fluid than normal as well as the wee bairn, so I'm measuring really big in the bump department and it's seriously affecting my mobility by aggravating a couple of disks in my back that got damaged when I was a teen. We made it though and I managed to not go into labour at the faire too, which was another worry with all the walking around involved (been having contractions on and off for about a week even though I'm not due until June) This is how big the bump was at 35 weeks and it's growth has gone exponential over the last month. Oh yeah, and My six year old cut my five year old's fringe/bangs. Sneaky little toads! That's going to take a while to grow out!

So, yes, Maker Faire... We noticed this year that the Make people were offering a really great opportunity to get two adult day passes for free if you joined the "Maker Faire Street Team", which just involved posting fliers and posters and a few stickers and badges around your local area in places like coffee shops and libraries, schools and other appropriate places, so we jumped at that chance and one Saturday morning the whole family had a bit of a jaunt around our neighbourhood doing this. The kids actually enjoyed doing this quite a lot. As a result we ended up only having to pay for two $5 children's day passes to all go to the Maker Faire this year!

If you're thinking about going next year and live within a 200 mile radius of the Faire then I would definately keep an eye out for that Street Team offer again because it was so worth it. We went on the Sunday and the first port of call was to check out Arc Attack's tesla coil show that we had missed out on the year before. Fantastic stuff! If you've not seen them in action before, here's a link to them playing the Dr Who theme tune this year with Adam Savage dancing like the geek he is in the faraday cage.

The top attraction for the girls was the area set up by Astromech, the R2 unit builders club. The kids knew that they were going to be there and had been looking forward to seeing R2-D2 "in person" so much that Carys had actually put out her starwars tshirt two nights before the faire ready to wear and when she found out that there would be more than one R2 unit there, she drew a picture for each unit.

We must have spent a total of an hour with them between two visits (she wanted to go back at the end of the day before we left) We got talking to a couple of the builders there and found out that one of them was actually a fellow Welshman, who had moved to the Bay Area about a decade before we did. It's a small world! He's got some fantastic resources on his website for people looking to embark on their own R2 build. Seems like the perfect long term project for Carys and Paul, especially now that Paul's got the CNC milling machine he built up and running.Me and the girls have made several trashy robots from recycling in the past, like Wall-e and a Dalek and some space craft from Star wars too, so I might get the kids involved in making an R2D2 this way to give Paul some time to look into the specifics of cost and material options required to build a more accurate and robust droid. Thank you to Chris for letting Carys and Ffion into the R2 area to meet the units up close. It made their day :)

Other favourites with the kids were the Bay Area Lego Users Group area and the inflatable glowing asparagus forrest from "O Yeah Toys". The interactive discofloor, and the muffin cars pictured at the top of this post that were powered with modified electric wheelchair components were also big hits with both girls.

The kids had so much fun last year at Gever Tulley's "tinker your way out of this" challenge area. This year Gever had an outdoor area where he was letting kids have a go at some of the things from his book "50 dangerous things" By the time we got all the way up to the far end of the Faire it was getting late in the day though and although Ffion was keen to try the stick your fingers together challenge and did really well with it, both kids were quickly distracted by the enormous electric giraffe that was wandering past, so they didn't try all the things that Gever had out.

I'm hoping to find a chance to go and check out the space that he and Bryan Welch have secured for an amazing k-12 school in San Francisco before I have this baby too. It sounds like a wonderful creative environment for such a huge age range that I'm really keen to learn more about Brightworks and how they plan to operate.

Another cool interaction that was had at the faire was meeting a guy called Tommy Murrah. He was part of the team manning the ShopBot area. Amongst other impressive things, they had milled out a load of interlocking play planks based on the ones published in Modern Mechanix back in 1953. I only saw this type of play plank for the first time a few months back when Teacher Tom wrote a post about the ones that they had at Woodland Park. Paul has been gradually making a set by hand from any remnant plywood that he's found cheaply in the offcuts section at Home Depot, but having talked to Tommy at Maker Faire, it seems that we can actually get the open source plans to mill out a set with the CNC router that Paul built last year and this modern template also includes additional pieces allowing kids to build curved surfaces too!
The plans are made available by a site called LinkerLogs under the creative commons license, and even better than that, if you run a school or non profit then there is a forum on the Linker Logs site where you can find out if there is a person in your local area with a ShopBot that can donate their time to helping make a set for a worthy cause! You can also buy the finished item from Murrah Woodcraft if you have the money, but not the tools and time to make your own. They call their version Thinker Linkers.

One of the things that I missed out on doing that I wanted to was getting into the center of the Expo Hall, where all the Craft stuff was. The Expo Hall was so very very busy and crowded that it was difficult to get to see things in there, especially with two small children with us. I was hoping to go see the kanzashi folding devices that Diane Gilleland has been talking about recently on her blog. We've made giant kid friendly kanzashi out of Baby wipes and paper towels with the kids after I read about about the craft on Diane's blog Craftypod, that I've been subscribed to for a very long time. I couldn't figure out from just looking at these different shaped plastic contraptions she showed on her blog how exactly they might work. I'm guessing that there will be a video online at some point showing how to use them though. I'd also hoped to just say hi to some of the Craft team there because they have been very supportive of Filth Wizardry in the past and have posted about several of our projects over the last couple of years on the Craftzine blog. Hopefully there will be some more mini maker events over the coming year and I can say hello and thank you in person then. I think next year, we will have to try and get just adult tickets for one day of the event and find someone willing to babysit for us, and then take the whole family on the other day, because me and Paul are really into the technical stuff that is at the faire, but don't really get a chance to endulge when we have the small kids in the equation.

Right now though I need to really take it easy for a couple of days because my back is rather displeased with me and the weekend's antics. I still haven't planted the bed of spinach and the bed of peas and beans that I was planning to get sorted before little miss Boardman no.3 arrives, but with only a couple of weeks to go, my body has informed me that it is on strike when it comes to digging, lifting or bending. I'm really looking forward to meeting this little girl and introducing her to my older two, but I'm also hoping that she'll submit to another week or so of cooking time ;)

Did any of our UK readers make it to the Newcastle Maker Faire back in March? How was it? We are likely going to be back in the UK next year and I'm hoping there will be another UK Maker Faire in 2012.

May 13, 2011

Kid's Clothing Week

Edit: Not sure if the 24 hour technical issues that Blogger had resulted in anyone getting notification of this post and then finding that it temporarily wasn't there to read, or if you tried to comment and couldn't or what. I hope that even if you managed to read this post before it went down for a while, that you'll let me know if the subject matter is something you'd like more of sporadically in the future. Sorry to the few people that did comment and then their comments also vanished. Can't help thinking that the poor people working to fix this issue over at Blogger, probably all night, must have several new grey hairs today.

I don't tend to put too much on Filth Wizardry about the stuff that I make (sew/knit/crochet) for the kids, because this blog is usually more of the stuff that we make together or they make themselves, but I did say in a post a few months back that I was thinking of posting links to some of the patterns and tutorials for things that I have had work out well for us. This week, as I'm sure a lot of you already know is Elsie Marley's "Kid's Clothing Week" for Spring 2011, so I've taken the opportunity to pull out a lot of half finished sewing projects that have been begging to be completed and thought I'd share those along with a few other bits and bobs that others might find useful if they are also into sewing/knitting and crochet for their children. I'm not sure if KCW is supposed to be purely sewing, or if the yarny stuff counts too, the yarny stuff is still clothing for the kids though right, so I'm guessing it's a legitimate part of the deal?

Right, first off, here's a few links to some kid's clothing projects we've done on here in the past that you might want to try out. I'm not a very skilled seamstress, so mostly what I do is basic or involves hacking together other garments either outgrown or from thrift stores.
  1. Superhero fleece poncho capes.
  2. Pocket Softie Skirts
  3. Pirate girl bandana skirts (post I wrote for Alpha Mom)
  4. Tea towel skirts and a couple of years later kid decorated tea towel skirt.
  5. Post no.1, post no.2 and post no.3 on plastic bag iron on transfers
  6. Kid's princess dress from old formal wear
  7. Underpants pockets
  8. Tea towel shorts
  9. Hawaiian shirt dress hack
  10. Dress up mermaid tails
The thing I finally finished today was a strawberry shortcake outfit that I had meant to get done for my younger daughter's fifth birthday back in March. I mostly hand sew, so sometimes things take longer than they should do ;) LiEr over at Ikatbag has made a couple of really cute strawberry shortcake outfits in the past that are totally from scratch. You can see hers here and here. My little girl had her heart set on a replica of this particular version though and I'm not awesome enough with the sewing machine to accomplish that from raw material, so I hacked it together from other garments...

The way I ended up going about it was to use felt from Daiso to cover a cheap baker boy type hat that we also found in Daiso (total 5 bucks), then I found a pair of stripey socks in the dollar section in Joanne Fabric. The dress was made by applique onto a dollar store kid's tshirt that I cut off short and used a piece of tshirt material fabric that I found in the remnants at Joanne that was just big enough to squeeze six panels out of that I could sew together into the skirt and then sew it onto the tshirt to finish the dress. You can't really tell from the photo, but the skirt part is pink and red polkadotted, just the opposite way around to the one in the cartoon, but it was all I had handy. She's very pleased with it, and although the hat is a little over the top, the dress is perfectly fine to just wear out and about this summer.

She's asking for pink hair to go with it, and I can't really say no given that she's seen plenty of pictures of me with pink hair :) The kids do find this funny, but not nearly as funny as the fact that their dad, who has a shaved head, used to have dreadlocks!

Something else that I've got on the cards to finish off this week is more sewing clothing for the kids from old felted cashmere sweaters. I keep my eye out for these when I'm in the thrift stores. Usually someone has accidentally felted them and that's why they are in the thift store in the first place, other times I wait until Goodwill has it's everything for $2 sale and go see how many of them I can find. Here are a couple of pictures of a sweater I made for my younger daughter a while ago from a couple of different blue adult cashmere sweaters that had been felted and cut into pattern pieces. They are so warm and soft and snuggly! I have a pale pink felted cashmere sweater that I'm planning to make some trousers and a top out of in a 6month size for the baby to wear this winter.

Something else I've been making a few of for the new baby are sleep gowns from old tshirts. There's a great tutorial and pattern for this here on "This Mamma Makes Stuff", and I've already made the two below, but have another three cut out and ready to sew up this week (all from old batik tshirts that my husband brought back from his trips to Nepal)

As far as the crochet and knitting goes, I'm pretty new to this game. I started really having a go at it about two years ago, but really it's only been the last year that I've been able to do anything beyond a scarf or a dishcloth. The way I taught myself was basically via Youtube videos. There are so many of them out there, showing everything from the basic stitches to less heard of techniques like Norwegian Purling (which I am now a big fan of and use whenever I'm knitting ribbing) The other massive source of patterns and inspiration has been the free to join site, which I signed up to in 2009 out of curiosity, but didn't have enough knitting knowledge to really get any use out of until this year. There are so many brilliant and totally free patterns available and beautifully catalogued there. It's really a marvelous site and resource! So anyway, here are a handful of the more simple projects I tried and had sucess with, plus links to the free patterns they came from in case there are any beginner knitters like me reading that want to expand the types of garments they can make without jumping in at the deep end.
Newborn bolero jacket.

This cute little teensy jacket is by Babyfatness and the free pattern is called Sweet and Lo. You can find it here. It was so quick to knit up that I want to make more! I used a bulky yarn to get a newborn size, but worsted weight would make a perfect baby doll jacket and I haven't tried it yet, but I bet sock yarn would make one that fitted a barbie doll nicely.

Easy sock pattern.

This was the pattern that I used to learn to make socks. It's a pattern for baby socks, so they knit up really quickly, but I've been able to change my yarn and needle sizes to make fluffy bed socks for my six year old or nice big stockings for the kid's for Christmas with the same pattern. The pattern is called "North Country Baby Socks" and you can find it for free here. I learned the basics of sock structure from several Youtube videos so that I could understand what the pattern was telling me to do.

Shell stitch baby hat.

The free pattern for this cute little hat was written by Betsy Thompson over at "The Dainty Daisy". Here is the link to the "Shell Stitch Beanie" pattern. She's provided it in a range of sizes and they are so quick and easy to crochet up that I've made probably about ten of them so far this year in various sizes for various children and with different alterations, like having the center of the beanie start with a flowershape or making a sunhat brim for them.

granny square slippers.

These are thanks to Purl Bee. I learned to crochet granny squares using the Purl Bee tutorial here, and then when I wanted to make something with them, but knew I didn't have the attension span to make a blanket, they published this neat tutorial showing how you could make a pair of cute pixielike slippers using 12 granny squares. By using a smallish hook and some finish yarn I was able to make a pair for my five year old. I'm about half way through a totally green pair that I'm going to put white pom poms on the toes of when I'm done, because she's tinkerbell mad.

Crochet Hexagon jacket.

This free little jacket pattern can be found over on Elisa's blog "Yarn Tails" here. It's a very nifty pattern that can be altered to any size easily and I've made three of these already this year. It's just two crochet hexagons that fold up to each make one side of the jacket. I ended up adding to the lengths of the jackets that I made from the pattern and adding a hood to the one I made for an older baby. I still have to sew buttons on the latest one that's in blue, but it's nearly done.

So, last thing to say is that today's KCW task I have is to finish sewing up the hem on the Tinkerbell skirt I've been making for the fairy fanatic of the house. Here it is nearly finished. I used part of an old bridesmaid gown that I got from Goodwill for $2, and sewed it up using the same technique as the pirate girl bandana skirts that I wrote a tutorial for over at Alpha Mom earlier this year.

Please do let me know if any of these links are useful to you, because if they are then I can write other posts now and again that cover things made for the kids and not just by them, including toys as well as clothing and link to any free patterns I've found out there on the intertoobs that have worked well for us.

May 8, 2011

Happy Mothers Day.

Well, in the US (which is where we live at the moment). I already wished my mum happy Mothers Day back in April, because my mum, dad and sister live back in the UK :) This is me with my lovely mum. I hate only getting to see her once a year now that we live so far away.

It seems a little strange to post Mothers Day craft ideas on a blog like this, given that I think most of my readers are actually mums, but I know I have at least a handful of dads that read this blog too, so maybe if you're thinking you might want a last minute gift that the kids can get involved with making today, here are a few ideas from Filth Wizardry posts of the past. I chose these ones because flowers tend to be a hit, and also because these few ideas will likely be doable with stuff you have around anyway, so no need to go out and get anything.

These are the cute drawings that my girls made for me this morning. My five year old drew our family with me looking surprised at the cake that is taller than me.

My six year old seems to think I will be getting cake, chocolate, balloons and a throne!? There had better be cake at some point in the day, because you don't go showing a woman who is 8 months pregnant multiple pictures of cake and then not give her any!

Have a lovely mum's day! :)